Renewal within the transformation of ideologies

It is often said that the time for democracy and liberalism has passed irrevocably. Europe has changed and so has the entire world.

Nothing significant remains of globalization’s march around the world. With the possible exception of the internet. And the Schengen Area.

No respect remains for the dignity of man and the rights derived from it. And therefore, in the anti-Western imagination, no universal human rights remain.

Universality has been replaced by neo-feudalism with its primitive and cruel sides of life.

Neofeudalism finds expression in authoritarian and totalitarian political systems. Ideologies continue to play an important part as a new vision of the world is formed. Supporters of the firm hand approach find the ideological dreams of Paleo-Fascism and Nazism quite handy. In their propaganda images, these political systems oppose Western liberal democracy. Authoritarianism and closedness are associated with the once predominant closed society based on patrimonial government and personalized power.

It is no surprise that in our country, anti-democratic and anti-liberal rhetoric is associated with the ideology of revanchism and autarchy advocated by the Russian Federation’s government.

Liberal and democratic societies are based on the power of the law, a state ruled by the needs of society and transparent policy.

The differences are astounding.

The leaders of the Russian Federation wish to convince us that the systematic division is not between authoritarian Russia and Europe, but between “historical Europe” and the “Russian world”. Between these very different worlds lay gray transitional areas. We, too, live in a gray area. We often hear that “our folk” are not sure which way to lean. Opponents of political democracy try to convince Lithuanian citizens not to resist a political regime based on authoritarianism and anti-democracy.

Many an admirer of archaism in Lithuania claims that democracy and liberalism bring nothing but conflict and other ills to the country. The problems, allegedly, arise from the erroneous choice made by the country’s elite. They say: why NATO, what European Union? You are not adjusted to survive such a world; fear the coming demographic apocalypse…

We hear this and similar rhetoric: like serfs fleeing the village of Motiejus Valančius’ times.

Let us change the terminology of the ideological avalanche aimed against open society in Lithuania. What will we discover?

The autocracy that flourished in the Russian Empire morphs into any of a number of forms of “national” authoritarianism, Orthodoxy into Catholicism, and the Russian narodnost’ into ethnic nationalism or the locally more popular term, nationhood.

Naturally, these powers are much weaker and more sluggish than they were in Tsarist Russia. There was a time when the Black Hundreds student associations: “The Russian Assembly”, “The Two-Headed Eagle”, “The Union of Russian People” – had earned the publicity that autocracy allows. Champions of Sergei Uvarov’s Orthodoxy, autocracy, and ethnic nationalist ideology supported both conservatively moderate and rather radical ideas. Such ideology was the Russian Empire’s defense against the invasion of liberalism from Western Europe, especially after the 1830-31 uprising in Poland and Lithuania. Ironically, the rebels of 1831 could not even in their darkest nightmare imagine that such champions could be found in Lithuania.

It is self-evident that such irrational patrimonial conservativeness arises from the complexity of modern society. It is influenced by sociopolitical pressure, conformism, and the clutches of political correctness; no less significant are unrealized personal cultural expectations. Even more impactful is access to information or asymmetry thereof in perceiving one’s own economical state and that of others. It is also important that there is little ability to guess the future.

Yet this anti-democratic ideology cannot win while we stand united in support of tolerance, openness, diversity, and human rights. The policy of socially retrograde views will not prevail while we support and defend non-governmental organizations, professional associations and unions, a democratic regime, and political pluralism.

Supporters of open society are not neo-liberals. They are fellow citizens and democrats. The Open Lithuania Foundation is interested in economic security and concerned with the frequent deprivation of rights citizens experience at the workplace. The OLF cares about a society which cannot be nurtured without openness, because the general welfare of Europe cannot flourish in an atmosphere of egotism and xenophobia. The OLF strives to decrease the tension between citizens of different characters and social standings – as a counter to the increasing atmosphere of mistrust and the rapidly spreading ideologies of intolerance.

The motto of supporters of open society should remain as it has always been: let us open walls, minds, and institutions to progress and change.